Mildred Park had rides, a swimming and fishing lagoon with a suspension bridge and other attractions. The area is now Bunn Park.
The suspension bridge was the site of a near-tragedy on Aug. 16,1905, when one of its cables snapped, tumbling 50 people — retail clerks and employees of the Inter-State Telephone Co., both holding outings in the park — into 12 feet of water. People boating on the lake acted quickly to pull people from the water. Two young women who became tangled in the wires suffered minor injuries.
“Some of the women who were standing about watching the work of rescue became highly hysterical and had to be removed from the scene,” the Daily Illinois State Journal reported the next day.
“Many of the merrymakers had been passing and repassing over the bridge during the afternoon, as the sensation afforded by the swaying bridge seemed to have a particular attraction for some,” the paper said. “People who were watching the crowds had just remarked on the crowded appearance of the structure when the crash came.”
The suspension bridge was replaced a few months later by an iron bridge.
Even before then, however, the Springfield Improvement Association, a group of businessmen, initiated efforts to help the Springfield Park District purchase Mildred Park. The association noted that Washington Park had no areas for baseball, tennis or swimming.
“Every now and then, we hear of some boy being fished out of the river dead,” the association’s Edward Payne told the board in September 1905. “The boys of Springfield need some place where they can learn to swim and where they can be watched. They want a place to play ball and have ten teams playing at once if they like.”
Mildred Park was renamed Bunn Park, recognizing businessman and park board secretary John Bunn, in May 1913.
At the same meeting, the board named a newly developed park on the city’s far east side in honor of pioneer Presbyterian minister Rev. John G. Bergen (1790-1872) who first purchased the park property from the federal government. The new facility had informally been called East End Park.
Sources: Daily Illinois State Journal articles available on genealogybank.com (subscription required).